Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You know you're an outdoor runner when ...

Yesterday I compared my work schedule and the weather forecast with my training plan, and decided that I'd better get a workout in, even though I'd done two consecutive days of (short and fairly easy) running.

It was 30 degrees when I prepared to head out. That meant I put on my slightly thicker long-sleeved T-shirt but opted for the now-infamous purple scarf because it's thinner than my fleecy headbands.

I stepped outside at the same time as one of my neighbors, who smiled at me and said: "I can't even think about running this time of year."

I gave my usual two-pronged mild self-deprecation: that I can't handle a treadmill and that I can't handle starting out warm and getting warmer.

But I did so standing still, in a single layer of clothing, and felt OK — chilly, but not freezing. And I knew, once I started moving, that it would truly feel good outside.

I must really be an outdoor runner.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Head games

In the early stages of half marathon training, the runs are short, easy and generally unnoteworthy.

So I have to write about my clothing instead — today, the items I wear to keep my head warm.

Headgear story No. 1: On Saturday, I went out midmorning, when temperatures were maybe in the low 20s. I wore a fleecy headband to keep the ears warm, which also makes for even sweatier hair.

When I got back into the apartment building, I started shedding sweaty layers — gloves, windbreaker and headband.

I expected to feel relief as warm and clean air hit my skin. Instead, I felt a tenderness along my scalp.

Huh? It turned out that a quarter-sized patch of ice had formed in my hair and fused it to the headband.

I bet I looked super-cool standing there with a headband dangling from the side of my head, while I waited for the ice to melt a little more.

Headgear story No. 2: On Wednesday, I put in my first "long run" — five miles, nothing to brag about — of the training cycle.

As I headed down Bulldog Hill, thinking excitedly about the food and shower that awaited me back home, I noticed a car slowing down alongside me.

I slowed down too, thinking the driver was going to turn left at an intersection we were approaching. But instead, its window rolled down, and a woman stuck her head out.

"HEY! Where did you get that purple scarf you're wearing?"

Yes, I have taken to dressing like a cartoon eastern European grandmother:

Unsurprisingly, the woman did not ask about my skin care routine.
Because she caught me on the downhill, not the uphill, I was able to call back: "Sorry, my uncle gave it to me when I was 10 years old."

"Well, damn, it's a beautiful scarf!"

I had no idea I was such a fast-inista. Or that my uncle was so hip circa 1996. Good for us.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Half marathon training is officially underway

Training for the Drake relays half marathon is officially underway, based on two factors:

1. The calendar.

2. My dreams.

This past week, I've already had two running-related dreams. The more recent one was pleasant and inspiration: I realized that while I'd been missing workouts, I'd been consistently doing my long runs, and doing them well.

Earlier this week, though, I dreamed that I was doing a half marathon, in which even my stop for a meal (?) didn't halt my momentum through mile eight or 10.

What totally derailed me in this dream race was reaching the indoor portion of this race. As soon as I got inside the building, I struggled to figure out the route and had a total and complete meltdown.

It wasn't even a PR-attempt race, but I told my boyfriend that I was DONE, maybe even insisting that someone (him?) come pick me up — I wasn't even going to finish.

Fortunately, week one of the training schedule more resembles the first dream I described, not the second.

More on that once I have a bigger sample size of runs with a purpose.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eating my words, spring half marathon edition

As promised, here comes my explanation for signing up for a spring half marathon, something I declared I wouldn't do again*.

The best explanation I have to offer is that this is a practice half marathon (there I go again, saying things that only "real" runners say).

A half marathon registration forces me to run, and that the training program puts me in optimum 5K shape, which I need in order to redeem myself after last year's Friendly Sons fail.

Yes, I could do these things without spending $60 to wear myself out on my day off work. I could also totally bail out on the financial commitment.

I probably won't do either, though. I'll spend two month being some combination of sore, sleepy and starving, complain about it the entire time, and then (finally) be grateful I did at the end of each race.

Nonrunners and some really intrinsically motivated runners might not understand, but I have full faith that most other runners are nodding their heads emphatically or empathetically.

My choice of race — the Hy-Vee Road Races half marathon — might also have some of you wondering about my sanity. In descending order of importance, my reasons for picking it are:

1. It's a month-plus earlier than Dam to Dam and on my regular day off of work. The timing thus hopefully works better for training and racing weather, and it definitely lines up better with the 5K race date.

2. The horrible hills at the end of this route are very close to where I live, so I can prepare myself — it won't make them that much easier, but it'll help me, mentally.

3. I know the route is a beast, and I know that race-day weather is a total crapshoot. With that in mind, I'm highly unlikely to secretly and/or realistically think about a PR attempt during what's supposed to be a shake-it-out event.

4. Cory and I were able to guilt friends into joining us. (Zach and Emily are totally going down.)

Base-building is in progress right now; full-on training starts Feb. 16-ish. Wish me luck.

* Have you noticed that of my first four posts in 2015, half of them address me retracting previous posts. So much humble pie.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Putting my plan to the test

I opened 2015 the same way I've done for the past couple of years — by not running.

This time, though, I committed to not running. I sketched up my workout routine through the end of April as follows:

* First few days of January: Total rest.

* Weeks of Jan. 5 and Jan. 12: Moderate cross-training (biking, "Just Dance," yoga, walking).

* Week of Jan. 19: Mostly cross-training, but add a two-mile run.

* Week of Jan. 26: Two short runs, plus cross-training.

* Weeks of Feb. 2 and 9: Three runs a week.

* Week of Feb. 16: Vacation and recovery.

* Week of Feb. 23: Time to train for the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K, on March 29, and the Hy-Vee Half Marathon, on April 26. (Yes, I know I declared myself done with all spring half-marathons and this one in particular, but that's a post for another day.)

I designed this to achieve three goals: avoid spring-race-signup-overexcitement, which results in me getting tired of running long before said races; accommodate a nearly weeklong vacation; and acknowledge that Midwest winters can be beastly.

I'm confident that goals one and two — the one I can actually control — are in the books. As for the third one ... well, it turned out there wasn't much horrible weather in January to avoid. (It's here now! Just like the multiple-run weeks on my schedule!)

Let me be clear: I am NOT complaining about mild temperatures and dry skies. I'm just a little sad that my moment of clarity on winter workout planning came a year too late.

At least I'll have that spreadsheet ready for all the miserable Januaries to come.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A visit to the shoe store

Last time I bought running shoes, the sales guy suggested that I think about buying lighter-weight shoes to wear for my shorter runs, to save some wear on my primary pair.

I didn't feel like he was just trying to upsell me, but I also at the time didn't feel like buying two pairs of expensive shoes.

The thought stayed in the back of my mind, though, and resurfaced every time I thought about replacing my one pair.

And then news of Fitness Sports' super-sale arrived in the mailbox: at least 15 percent off shoes, up to 30 percent for some.

Time to take the plunge!

The pink ones are the Brooks Ghost 7 (if it ain't broke, don't fix it), for heavy-duty running.

The blue ones are a lighter-weight New Balance model, probably something from last year because they were 30 percent off.

Back when the sales guy mentioned having a second pair of shoes, my reluctance wasn't simply financial — it was also a bit of self-deprecation. I'm not that serious of a runner, I told myself.

I still, mostly, don't take myself too seriously as a runner. I'm solidly middle of the pack, purely an amateur and latecomer.

But I do put enough miles on one pair that having a short-distance model is worth a try ... especially because I tend to replace running shoes based on how much time has elapsed or how many seams are splitting.

If I spread the mileage out, maybe those measuring sticks will be a little more accurate.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The return: Painful but rewarding

Five months ago, I signed off the blog, with an acknowledgment that it might be a Michael Jordan-esque retirement.

I don't remember missing it for quite some time, unless you count being mournfully touched when faithful readers told me that they missed it.

The decision to reboot lacks a quality explanation, just like the one to pull the plug did.

A writing assignment for The Des Moines Register on how to keep running through the winter probably deserves credit for laying subtle groundwork, but in total seriousness, I mostly just decided in recent days that I'd like to revive it.

(You know, the same way I started running — on a whim.)

My return to blogging coincides with my return to running in 2015.

Since I last blogged, I've notched very little of significance, mileage-wise and time-wise, but I did achieve the goals of making running fun for myself again and completing another Runner's World Holiday Run Streak.

After Jan. 1, I began my Post-Holiday Run-Free Streak. It was glorious. So was the weather, actually. Getting motivated to start running again is much easier when the sun is shining and temperatures reach the 40s and 50s.

My run last Saturday, the first since New Year's Day, was two flat miles in shorts. No walk breaks even necessary. It was a treat to run that day, not a chore, though my quads disagreed the next day.

Then on Tuesday, I ran the farthest I'd run all year: three miles. There were a few inclines, so I walked, but without guilt. (And without pants — shorts in January again!)

This time my calves and right hip complained a bit. I'm just about ready to go for a third shorts-in-January run, so we'll see what else has gotten rusty. Possibilities include: my bunions, my shoulders, my writing inspiration.